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Submitted by Cautiously Pes… on Thu, 31/05/2012 - 14:07

"If you think this action has genuinely "done a tremendous amount" to "weaken" Alan Meale's power we will just have to agree to disagree on this point. I find this frankly delusional." I was really confused by this bit, until I realised you must have read "don't think" as "do think". Anyway, the point I was making was that I don't think it's a massively important action, but it seems like a small step in the right direction. You might still disagree, but rest assured that I wasn't making it out to be a major deal.

As for "no platform" - that's not the term I'd use. I think there's some confusion that arose here - you seemed to be suggesting that disrupting politicians isn't a good idea because sometimes it's hard to say whether it's appropriate or not, and I was making the point that similar gray areas exist around no platforming the far-right, but those gray areas don't invalidate militant anti-fascism as a whole. I do think that the ruling class are our enemies, and the managers of the state are part of the ruling class, and our attitude towards them should always be one of hostility, but how this hostility should be expressed (if it should be open at all - I'm not saying we should constantly tell our managers to piss off at every opportunity or anything) depends entirely on circumstances.
I also think trade union leaders have interests that are fundamentally opposed to ours, and so I would certainly think it appropriate to disrupt them in some circumstances, but again, it's all down to the individual situation.

As for sabotaging democratic decisions, I think it's a tiny bit disingenuous to say "I wouldn't have done something like this, I would probably have gone along and heckled". To me, the difference between the Nottingham action and heckling is purely one of degree, and had you gone along and spoken out of turn, I'm sure Stalinist or Labourist bureaucrats would have denounced you in exactly the same terms, as an undemocratic wrecker sabotaging the trades council's decision. I can't say much about the specifics of Nottingham Trades Council, but as a gut instinct I still don't have that much of an issue with disobeying its decisions - unless unemployed people, unorganised temp and private sector workers, pensioners, disabled people and the rest actually have decent representation on it, it seems a bit harsh to tell them they have to abide by decisions they have no say in, or to call them patronising elitists when they disagree.

I don't think that unorganised workers are any more important than unionised workers, or that they're more militant or anything - I would suggest that if they do take action, it might potentially be more disruptive as a result of them being less tied to the traditions of Labourism, social partnership and so on, but that's certainly offset by the fact that they're less likely to take action in general. If I think unorganised workers are important, that's simply because they're the majority of the class. And that's before we get into the question of how many "organised" workers are paper members only, since it's not as if most union members are rushing to pack out union meetings on a regular basis. When you say "6 or 7 million is not a small number", fair enough, but to try and fudge the distinction between that 6 or 7 million, or even that proportion of the 6 or 7 million that works in Nottinghamshire, and the few hundred activists who turned up at the May Day rally, or might potentially hear about events at the rally, seems unhelpful.

If you think my point about the key task being to relate to unorganised workers was too dismissive of the minority of organised workers, how about this formulation: The key task for revolutionaries is to relate to the workers who are closest to us and we interact with most regularly. If the make-up of revolutionaries is vaguely similar to the make-up of the class as a whole, that means that for many of us our first priority will be talking to unorganised workers. Even for those of us who do work in unionised workplaces, a) trying to get united action, or even just some kind of common discussion, across the workforce often means talking across union boundaries and often to unorganised sectors within the same workplace, b) even when we're union members, talking to other members of our union within our workplace, I think it is very, very, very unlikely that any of our colleagues will reply with "yeah, what you're saying makes some sense, but I don't want to talk to you because you/other members of your political faction disrupted a speech by a Labour MP". That sounds absurd, but that does sound like what you were implying when you mention how the action would do "lots to earn you the hostility of the vast majority of organised workers".

Not read "Can we build a revolutionary workers' movement?" yet, will try and get around to it. I think your perspective is flawed, but at least we've clarified some of where the differences lie. To me, while I don't think that "agitating, educating, and organising... amongst currently-organised workers" is a complete waste of time, I think that stuff like the activity of the IWW Cleaners' branch in London, and to a lesser extent their attempts to organise Pizza Hut workers (admittedly, not an anarchist organisation, but one that many anarchists are involved in and support), seems like more of a priority. As a general principle, as I've said our immediate situation should always be the starting point.

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